Friday, 2 November 2007

Remember, remember the fourth of November ....


In the Soviet Union the 7th November was a public holiday comparable only with the 9th of May, when victory over the Nazis was marked. The date marked the celebration of the "Great October Socialist Revolution". Under Boris Yeltsin's shambolic guidance the holiday tradition became communist public protests against the Kremlin regime and in 1994 Yeltsin rebranded the holiday with the rather ironic title "Day of Accord and Reconciliation".

In Vladmir Putin's Russian Federation the holiday has been moved to 4th November (a significant date for Russian Orthodoxy) and has become Public Unity Day. The holiday has acquired Slavicist and Russian nationalist connotations and the tradition of public dissent on this day is now upheld by a cornucopia of shadowy right wing groups. Putin's own youth groups have subsequently been mobilised to make the Kremlin's presence felt.

In Moscow this holiday will bring with it apprehension as 30,000 people prepare to take part in demonstrations
. Putin has used patriotic and nationalist sentiment to galvanise Russians and to bolster the people's damaged Post Soviet self-esteem. These sentiments are however a dangerous animal and when they are exploited the sinister forces of racism and exclusivism that form nationalism's dark underbelly are seldom far away.

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